- Human Rights
- September 22, 2009
- 6 minutes read
Who is the “suregoen-reformist?”
When I spoke last week on “who will surgically reform Egypt,” I didn’t specify exactly the characteristics of the person to do this job. I just mentioned tendencies, unspecified figures, some of whom could be inside the regime, others are outside it yet have a strong presence which qualifies them to carry out a surgical reform that cannot wait.
The crisis of the Egyptian political system is not limited to its inability to carry out political and democratic reforms. The problem lies in the regime’s stifling of any political or non-political institution’s ability to mobilize in an organized form, prevailing corruption which pushes any political party or leader to fall into grave mistakes. So, if you are running in parliamentary elections, you are bound to buy votes, use thugs, and rig the voters’ lists to increase your chances of winning. The more of these “crimes” you commit the better chances you have for winning.
Political action has become full of dangers and risks, not just resulting from security interventions and the restrictions imposed on the political parties and forces, but also from the state of lawlessness that dictates deviations on any political actor– deviations that are no different from those committed by the ruling party. And in such atmosphere, political forces tend to look inwards and get sucked into factional fighting and conspiracies, other than busying themselves with the country’s problems. Presence in the media, for them, has become more important than real political presence.
Kefaya was a promising movement that rose as a protest voice versus both ruling and opposition parties. Now it’s dead after less than four years.
Was there a movement more youthful than 6th of April Movement, which presented itself as a pure movement that wouldn’t fall into the parties’ mistakes and not repeat mistakes of the older generations? They were fresh graduates who lived the “dream of purity” and considered any member of an organized political party an enemy who betrayed the revolution for the sake of reform. They looked to themselves as the cleanest figures, on whose hands the revolution was going to come. Now they fell victims to splits and mutual accusations, worse than those witnessed by political parties. They early reproduced the same model of failure of political parties.
Is there a group, bigger and more organized than the Muslim Brothers? Of course not. Still, they have presented a showcase for political failure across 80 years of its existence, during which it failed to play any real role in reforming the country, despite the thousands of prisoners it sacrificed under different regimes.
As for the state’s ruling party, the National Democratic Party, although its ranks are full of thousands of reformists and able professionals, yet linking the issue of reform to presidential succession has sabotaged reform, and forced an anti-reform shape on the succession project, even when the latter is trying to put on a new youthful look.
Out of the 24 legally registered political parties, 18 are virtually non-existent in the political and organizational sense. There are only five serious opposition parties, most importantly at the moment: Wafd and the Democratic Front. But the two will not be able to play a role in the political reform process if they depend on the party machine that cannot function in such a political atmosphere that dictates a marginal role (more or less 10 parliamentary seats and roughly a 100 in the local councils). The struggle for power is not conducted in the parliament or via parties’ alliances.
Is there a more politically important experience than Ayman Nour’s presidential candidacy in 2005? He came second, with the support of a combatant party behind him. He paid a dear price, spending three years in prison for his courage in elections. But the dearest price was paid after his release, creating a “media buzz” that do not represent anything concrete on the ground, while his party machine disintegrated into bitter factional fighting. Nour wasted his political abilities and talents, in fending off personal and political accusations. His ability to deal with the media do not reflect anything real on the ground, squandering the political capital he had in the Egyptian street as a young opposition dissident.
The picture might look grim. But there is still hope.
The scene we have in Egypt has equated “political action” with “political mistakes” and sometimes “political sins,” leading to the failure of all attempts to bring about change by everyone (including intellectuals and independent politicians).
Such reality, rampant with stagnation and randomness, cannot produce an alternative for reform. But may be “non-activists” can produce it. Those may be found among some political activists who are not involved in the details of the daily work and conspiracies of political parties. They are not dogmatic and have a critical view of their existing organizations. They can read the situation and can help the “dormant reformists” inside the Egyptian state, with the surgical reform of Egypt.
The most important characteristic of these reformists is that they have not yet become part of the current political reality. They never brought thugs to ensure their electoral victory, shot their party colleagues, smuggled rotten wheat, or marginalized the rest of the political figures to promote one successor only.
Those “dormant reformists,” who resemble the “sleeper cells,” will not be able to contribute to changing the current conditions, unless more rational politicians appear, who are away from the daily political conspiracies, who want to change the existing regime (and not destroy it), who are able to present a assuring discourse to every citizen with integrity inside the Egyptian state. These values make a distinguished reformer, even when he doesn’t give a sweet political talks and is not a member of a fake political party or boutique.